Kamala Mills Fire: “1Above owners lying through their teeth”, says Mumbai Police

Mumbai: All the three owners of 1Above restaurant — Hitesh Sanghavi, Jigar Sanghavi and Abhijeet Mankar – have been arrested. While Hitesh and Jigar were arrested last night from Kenilworth Mall at Linking Road, where they had gone to meet their lawyer, Mankar was arrested from Marine Plaza hotel at Churchgate on Thursday morning.

The Sanghvis and their partner Mankar, who have been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, were on the run ever since the fire erupted. The police had recently arrested Vishal Kariya, a builder turned bookie, for harbouring the trio immediately after the fire. It is Kariya’s interrogation that led to the final breakthrough and the arrest of the accused.

They were produced before the Bhoiwada Magistrate’s court on Thursday and have been remanded to police custody until January 17. However, the interrogation on Thursday evening yielded little and it is obvious that the three co-owners, having been briefed by their lawyers, are in no tearing hurry to admit to anything. Rather, the Sanghvis tried to take their interrogators across the garden path and claimed that they had fled to their home town Pali to evade arrest. Mankar claimed that he was in hiding in Yavatmal district.

The police, however, have discounted the ‘Pali’ theory as the Sanghvis would be fools to crisscross to Rajasthan and back at a time there was a look out notice for them. Also, if they indeed were in Pali, why did they have to return to Mumbai, which was too ‘hot’ for them?

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They also had an implausible explanation for being incommunicado: Because they did not have cell phones with them! “Certainly they are trying to misguide us,” a senior police officer said. Another officer told the Free Press Journal that they are checking the footage of CCTV cameras installed near the residence of Kariya to ascertain when they had left the area.

It is suspected that the Sanghvis, at least, were holed up in Mumbai only. After the fire broke out at Kamala Mills compound on December 29, all the three owners drove in Mankar’s Audi to builder Vishal Kariya’s Riviera building in Juhu at Vile Parle, where they lived for two to three days.

From here, they shifted to a new location in the city as they needed to consult their lawyers.  A source told the Free Press Journal that the trio made calls via Voice over Internet Protocol and were in touch with their relatives, friends and legal eagles, as the Mumbai police stepped up its vigilance, especially around law firms in south Mumbai and western suburbs.

Incidentally, the name of Siddharth Mahadevan, the son of singer Shankar Mahadevan, had also cropped up as one of the co-owners of Mojo’s Bistro. But he was not made an accused in the FIR as the information turned out to be incorrect, it is claimed.

Owners profess innocence!

Defence lawyer Kiran Jain argued before the court that the owners of 1Above are innocent and they have been framed by the police. Jain claimed that eye witnesses’ account and the fire services’ report reinforce the suspicion that the Kamala Mills fire originated at Mojo’s Bistro and the owners of 1Above were not responsible for it. Jain also argued that culpable homicide not amounting to murder (Section 304) was not applicable to his clients. He further stated that his clients had surrendered before the police.

The police have said in their remand application that the owners of 1Above should not have fled if they were innocent. The application also stated that 1Above did not have a licence for a hukkah parlour.


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